Orla Cronin Research

Social science research and strategic consultancy

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Consultation & participation

Public involvement in decision making: The National Pensions Debate

Opinion Leader Research was commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to conduct a UK-wide, public consultation on the Pensions Commission’s proposals to reform the UK’s pension system. The consultation aimed to engage a diverse, cross-section of UK society in long-term pensions reform.  OCR provided a table facilitator to take part in sessions which comprised the multi site, parallel workshops where policy proposals were discussed and debated using small group discussion, live polling, and  interactive satellite video links across sites.  A particular challenge was to provoke animated discussion around a complex and potentially dry subject.

The results of the consultation were incorporated into the government’s White Paper ‘Security in retirement: towards a new pensions system’.

Public involvement in decision making: “Our NHS, our future”

OCR provided a table facilitator to the Department of Health consultation around Lord Darzi’s review of the NHS (convened by Opinion Leader Research).  This consisted of a one day deliberative event, involving parallel events linking over 1000 participants using table discussions, video conferencing and electronic polling, yielding feedback which was incorporated into the NHS document “Engagement analysis: What we heard from the ‘Our NHS, Our Future’ process” and which subsequently informed Lord Darzi’s final NHS Next Stage Review.  A particular challenge during this consultation was to facilitate the conversion of sometimes acutely personal and traumatic experience into more general, actionable recommendations.

Public involvement in decision making: “The future of nuclear power”

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) commissioned a deliberative event from Opinion Leader Research, for which OCR provided a table facilitator.  A particular challenge in this consultation was to mediate between very different and strongly held convictions regarding the role of nuclear power while remaining neutral as a facilitator, particularly as this was the second consultation mounted, the first having been overturned by Greenpeace in the High Court.   The results of this consultation were reported in the BERR report “The future of nuclear power: Analysis of consultation responses

An independent evaluation of the consultation process conducted by Shared Practice  showed that that almost all respondents agreed that they found the public deliberative event worthwhile and that they enjoyed taking part (93%), and a large majority were more likely to get involved in public consultations in future as a result of attending this event (89%).  The most frequent comment at the end of questionnaires, when participants were asked if there was anything they wanted to add, was thanks for how enjoyable and/or interesting it had been.

Community consultations on Eco Towns

The homelessness charity Shelter was funded by the Department of Communities and Local Government to run a consultation on Eco Towns.  ICA:UK was commissioned to deliver a series of workshops with members of the communities where these may be sited.  As associates of ICA:UK, OCR participated in the design, facilitation, delivery and reporting of these workshops.  Particular challenges included ensuring that everyone’s voice was heard in the context of very strong local opinion both for and against eco towns, and conducting the process fairly and transparently, particular in the light of some negative media comments regarding the role of a campaigning third sector organisation (Shelter) in running a consultation around a government proposal.  The response to this workshop was very positive, with one participant speaking in public for the very first time, and culminating in his volunteering to be interviewed by a film crew afterwards. Another participant, who had been in several meetings with some of these individuals before said  ‘we usually end up shouting at each other….this was the first time ever we have ever managed to achieve consensus on anything”.

More information on the outcome of this consultation can be found here (Shelter) and here (Eco Towns).

Participative design of community health interventions

A large urban NHS primary care trust wished to involve its target population in the design of training courses aimed at supporting healthy eating in areas of disadvantage.  OCR, in conjunction with The Murray Consultancy, designed, facilitated and reported a series of community based workshops on healthy eating which informed the redesign of the training course.

Optimising university library services

In conjunction with Clearbox consulting, OCR designed, conducted and reported a series of workshops in order to optimise the library services provided by one of the main Irish universities.  Results from this evaluation were used to reconfigure the library services, prioritise their innovation projects and streamline the library website.